Commentary: Education coalition split by Schwarzenegger's plan

It got almost no media attention at the time, but when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger unveiled an array of new taxes and spending cuts to deal with a severe budget crisis, he also proposed a revolution in how schools are financed.

Schwarzenegger's proposal to remove almost all constraints on how local school officials spend billions of dollars in so-called "categorical aids" didn't go unnoticed in education circles, however, and it touched off an internal debate that could divide the politically powerful "education coalition" of unions, school boards and administrators.

The coalition – with the California Teachers Association its chief source of political muscle – was formed in the 1980s to press Sacramento for more state school aid in the wake of Proposition 13, the iconic property tax limit measure. In 1988, the coalition won voter approval of Proposition 98, which lodged in the state constitution a complex school finance guarantee that has been the centerpiece of every budget conflict since.

A tenet of the education coalition's success is that its members stand together to protect state education funds while vying among themselves over how the pot is divvied up.

To read the complete column, visit The Sacramento Bee.